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Elephants help celebrate Arena's birthday

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Isabella Simmons, 3, Madison Grogan, 6, and Emily Grogan, 4, react to a performance during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus event for the public in celebration of the Arena at Gwinnett Center's 10th anniversary in Duluth Wednesday. Circus performers gave locals a short sample of what their shows will feature from Feb 21 - March 3.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Isabella Simmons, 3, Madison Grogan, 6, and Emily Grogan, 4, react to a performance during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus event for the public in celebration of the Arena at Gwinnett Center's 10th anniversary in Duluth Wednesday. Circus performers gave locals a short sample of what their shows will feature from Feb 21 - March 3.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Asian elephants wave with their trunks to the crowed during the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus free event for the public in celebration of the Arena at Gwinnett Center's 10th anniversary in Duluth Wednesday. The endangered species of elephants were born at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation which prides themselves on helping "preserve and protect the species well-being."

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Ringleader Johnathan Lee Iverson gets a high five from the leaping 3- foot 4-inch acrobat Paulo Cesar as the Arena at Gwinnett Center hosted a free Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus event for the public in celebration of the arena's 10th anniversary in Duluth Wednesday. Circus performers gave locals a short sample of what their shows will feature from Feb 21-March 3.

DULUTH -- A large group of circus lovers braved the cold winds and weather Wednesday afternoon for one reason: to celebrate the Arena at Gwinnett Center's 10-year anniversary.

To blow out the candles, the Arena teamed up with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey to offer the public a free snapshot of the "Dragons" show.

In front of the Arena, the audience was able to watch performers engage in their talents, which ranged from martial arts and dance to humor and strength.

After the performers were finished, the grand finale walked up from the parking decks -- five elephants grasping truck to tail.

"The elephants were his favorite part," Chris Hull of Alpharetta said about his son. "He was on my shoulders where I couldn't see him, but (my family) said his jaw dropped when they came out. We're going to try to come to the show."

Elephants weren't the only part of the show, but the gray giants were the talk in the crowd.

"I expected more animals, but at least I knew it would be outside," Kerri Garfinkle of Brookhaven said. "The kids got to see animals, so that's why we really came."

With the crowd at full attention, Gwinnett Center General Manager Joseph Dennis and CEO of Gwinnett Center and Explore Gwinnett Preston Williams were hit in the face with pies.

"I think it went great; it was a great turnout," Dennis said after cleaning his face. "We're happy with the event. I wish the temperature was a little warmer and the wind would've died down, but it was a great crowd."

There was also a four-tier cake baked and decorated for the birthday bash.

"We'll have cake for the next year," Dennis said with a laugh.

"Dragons" opens today and runs through March 3.